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Do different cockatiel mutations need different supplements or diets?

The normal gray cockatiel and all its resulting mutations belong to the same species, Nymphacus hollandicus, which means there is no difference in the anatomy or physiology of cockatiels and their color mutations. A common misconception is that color mutations are hybrids (a cross between separate species). Because all color mutations in cockatiels belong to the same species, the mutations are merely variations in feather color. Therefore, whatever diet you select for the optimum nutrition of a pied cockatiel would be just as suitable for a whiteface pearl cockatiel, or any other color mutation you own.

Think of it this way. We feed cockatiel color mutations in an equivalent manner as we feed variations of color-coated dogs within a breed. For example, we provide the same diet to a black Labrador retriever as we would to a yellow one. The canine diet does not affect color individually but rather enhances a glossy, well-maintained coat through the inclusion of the correct balance of vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, amino acids, fatty acids and many other important nutritional components. Therefore, the goal is to feed an avian diet that is appropriate for the optimum health and condition of your cockatiel no matter what color your cockatiel happens to be.

There are some birds outside the parrot family that can be color fed; for example certain varieties of canaries require color food, and flamingos need to eat shrimp in order to take on a deep pink appearance. However, we cannot color feed our cockatiels in this way. We can provide loads of carrots and other foods containing carotenoid pigments, but these will not affect the color of cockatiel plumage.

According to findings from the Psittacine Research Project at UC Davis, deficiencies in riboflavin (vitamin B2), and choline (part of the B-complex vitamins), contribute to a loss of dark, melanin pigment in selected cockatiel feathers in some birds, causing them to turn white. Yet, these deficiencies do not produce a change in overall color, and the effects can be reversed when the nutrient is added back into the diet.

Aviculturists who raise cockatiels house and feed the flock together so that all the different color mutations receive the same foods. It is more important to select a quality diet that is appropriate for cockatiels, including fresh foods and dark green leafy vegetables for all birds.

Considerations when selecting a commercial diet include whether a bird is currently breeding and raising young, life stage cycles, such as weaning or old age, specific illness, or food allergies (food allergies have not been defined as such, but owners should watch their bird for an adverse response to a diet). Such birds may benefit from diets with additional supplements or other items not included in a maintenance diet for non-breeding birds. There are many excellent products and nutrition boosters on the market available for cockatiels. Although you do not have to worry about color-feeding, consult your avian veterinarian during your cockatiel’s checkup to determine the overall diet plan that best suits your individual bird.

Have a question about your Cockatiel? Click here.

Do cockatiels drink as much water as other parrots?

To the best of my knowledge, there are no formal research studies conducted to precisely answer that question. However, we can make a logical assumption by what we know and come to a reasonable conclusion through our own observations.

Cockatiels are desert birds that populate very arid regions of interior Australia, their native habitat. In the wild, they may not encounter watering holes as frequently as other parrots might that live along the exterior or coastline where water is more plentiful. Because they are desert birds, cockatiels tend to drink less water. Cockatiel owners may have noticed that other species of parrots that do not originate from desert habitat consume more water on a daily basis. However, keep in mind that for a good comparison, a parrot’s weight and size should be a consideration when comparing it to a cockatiel.

Although cockatiels may require slightly less water when compared to some other parrots, it is still critical that fresh, clean water remain available to cockatiels at all times. Cockatiels do become thirsty, and it would be cruel to deny them a drink when they require it.

Most importantly, water is a nutritional component of the diet and is crucial to the optimum performance of many metabolic functions that affect your cockatiel’s health and longevity. It is just as important that the water be clean and void of any bacteria, foreign material or other contamination that would interfere with proper absorption and health. Always provide a well-washed, clean cup of fresh water that is easily accessible at all times.

Have a question about your Cockatiel? Click here.

Are my female pet cockatiel's dietary needs different from a male cockatiel's?

Both male and female cockatiels require the same nutritional dietary needs during periods of maintenance or the non-breeding season. However, if your female cockatiel becomes broody and you believe she might be preparing to lay eggs, provide additional calcium supplementation. Calcium is a major component of egg shells and is utilized for nerve and muscle function, including the muscles in the oviduct. Lack of dietary calcium can cause a dangerous deficiency for egg-laying hens, leaving them vulnerable to disease, osteoporosis and life-threatening problems, such as soft-shelled eggs and egg binding.

Provide a clean, fresh cuttlebone in the cage with the soft side facing inward (a few scratches across the surface with a clean knife can create "interesting" ridges to entice your cockatiel). Other excellent sources of calcium include dark green, leafy vegetables; the richest source of calcium is contained in the leaves. Although all leafy greens are nutritious, the following rank highest to lowest in calcium content: collard greens, dandelion greens, turnip greens, bok choy, broccoli, kale, mustard greens and spinach. Oyster shell, roasted chicken egg shells (baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes) and products combining calcium and vitamin D3 together are all excellent supplements. Vitamin D3 is essential for calcium to be able to be absorbed into the body.

Have a question about your Cockatiel? Click here.

How do I get my pet cockatiel to eat pellets along with its seeds and vegetables?

Cockatiels can be stubborn to convince to sample new foods and, like all birds, they have a high metabolism, so they cannot go without food for more than a few hours at a time. Follow the manufacturer's instructions closely. Some companies suggest mixing the new food in with the old, in a 50/50 ratio, increasing the new food daily over a period of 10 days to two weeks, until your cockatiel is reliably eating the new food. Others suggest providing the new food only, then returning the former diet after a few hours so your bird is able to eat. Continue this procedure until your cockatiel is accepting the new food. Remember to never let a bird go to bed hungry!

A cockatiel already trained to eat pellets can serve as a teacher to your bird and model the new behavior. Another option is to place pellets near a mirror so that your pet cockatiel can see its "bird buddy" near the food. Place pellets on a mirror on the cage bottom, or a hang a mirror by the food bowl.

A word of caution: Some cockatiels may do better with seeds and vegetables in their diet instead of eating pellets alone. Pellets as a sole dietary item may be hard on the kidneys; however, providing seeds and vegetables along with pellets is a safe and effective diet, and the pellets boost the nutritional value.

Have a question about your Cockatiel? Click here.

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